I was in the house I’m in now in Trowbridge, West Wiltshire. We’d moved here from south London two years before. Our children were six and four. We’d left London because Andrew had been made redundant from his job working in IT for a large accountancy firm in the City and found another job which allowed him to work from home. So we made the decision to move somewhere with cheaper houses and good state schools that our children could walk to. Plus, two of my brothers had moved here years before with their families, so we’d be near them.
Not having the pressure of a big mortgage meant I didn’t need to look for paid work, so could try to write, and Andrew was able to take an unpaid sabbatical from his job for ten months to work on renovating the dilapidated Victorian semi-detached house we’d bought and help care for our two young children.
But, by July 2005, he was back at work. Our six year old daughter was in her second year at the local Catholic primary school and our four year old son had a free place for two and a half hours a day at a local play group.
I woke before 7am on the 7th July. Andrew had already left the house. The cup of tea he makes me every morning was cold on our bedside table. I hadn’t even heard him go. Though we live in West Wiltshire, Andrew’s clients have always, mostly, been in central London; what we’d gained with an affordable house, he’d had to sacrifice with early mornings and long working days. I’ve always felt sad about this and questioned whether the price has been too high. But it is what it is.
I hadn’t long been back from walking our children to their respective schools when Andrew telephoned me from his mobile to ask if I knew about any industrial action on the London Underground that day, or any reason why services wouldn’t be running as usual. He and his boss had arrived at London Bridge Station and were trying to get to the tube but weren’t being allowed through. There was no information displayed anywhere, he said, and more and more people were gathering and nobody knew what was happening. In the background of his call, I could hear Emergency Service sirens.
I telephoned my sister who lives in Peckham, South East London, and asked her if she’d heard of any disturbance to public transport. She didn’t know what was happening either but one of our brothers, who was visiting her in London, had just walked back to her house saying that there were no trains running from their local station. I could hear sirens in the back of her call, too.
I switched on the television and the day’s news came streaming across the screen. Andrew rang back and I read aloud to him the information that was being broadcast into our home in Wiltshire:
Major incident in London………… fire on an underground train…….. suspected incendiary device……..
There were a dreadful twenty minutes when I lost telephone contact with Andrew and it became clear that there was a risk of further incidents in London that day. Reports of an explosion on a bus came in and the pictures broadcast on television made it clear that this had been a bomb. Meanwhile, where was Andrew? Why wasn’t he answering his phone? Without telling me, he and his boss had decided to walk across London to their day of meetings and then proceeded to try to carry on as normal.
For twenty minutes I felt panic and imagined that my husband was at risk. I hadn’t even seen him that morning or kissed him goodbye. Our children hadn’t seen him since the day before as they’d been asleep when he’d come home from work.
Was I now a widow? Were our children fatherless? Then I heard from him again and cried with relief. Then immediately felt guilt and thought of women in Iraq and Afghanistan – I thought of the conflicts in those places that my country, Britain, was heavily implicated in. How indulgent of me to imagine, even for a fleeting twenty minutes, that I had any idea what life must be like for them.
I felt an urge to try to find out more about these women. I searched on the internet and found some first person accounts of what it was like living with the daily threat of bombings. One woman wrote
In the mornings, when my husband leaves for work and my children leave for school, we never say ‘See you later’ we only say ‘Goodbye’. This could be the final time we see each other.
I felt humble and ashamed when I read this and thought that what I’d experienced momentarily was something that people living in places like Iraq and Afghanistan were enduring daily and continuously.
I was filled with a surge of gratefulness when I collected my children from school that day and when Andrew finally arrived home. I try to remember this feeling whenever I can. But I’m thinking today of people whose lives were changed unalterably after the events of 7th July 2005, of the people who died that day, of the family and friends who became bereaved, of those left injured, of the people who saved or tried to save lives. And I’m thinking of people who are still living in places of conflict, who still endure the threat of bombs, who don’t even have the luxury of calling to their loved ones “See you later.”
Please leave a comment if you have a memory or thought you’d like to share.
7 thoughts on “Seven/Seven: Where Were You?”
Lovely article, Josephine. Thank you for writing. It is good to remember where we were on certain events. It fixes our lives, whether it is national events or personal events.
I will always remember where I was on 7/7/2015. I was at home in Frome, home educating my daughter. My son had gone to college that day in Radstock. We were really engrossed in something when suddenly we both said “let’s put the radio on”. Neither of us will ever know why but we listened with shock as the reports unfolded. We are Christians and we just prayed and cried.
On a lighter note – didn’t realise you were in Trowbridge. I am now in Bradford on Avon.
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Thanks for sharing this, Diane, and hello to you in Bradford-on-Avon. Perhaps I’ll see you at Words and Ears (Poetry Night) at The Swan in Bradford some time. – J
Thank you for sharing your recollections; I really enjoyed what you wrote and empathised with it. My partner was making a rare trip to London to spend time with his son who lives abroad. I was expecting him home some time on 7/7 but he rang me at work around 11.00 to say he would probably be late home- in his words: “There are bombs going off all over London.” I was terrified- he was at risk, who knew how many bombs there were, was anywhere safe? I had already experienced the IRA threat when I was in a student hall of residence on Oxford Street in the early 1980s so guessed how he might be feeling. Fortunately he made it home safe.
Since that day he has had a fair bit of bad luck, including being made redundant from 3 different jobs and being unemployed for two years. Yet when I think how different it could have been for us, that day in 2005, if he had started his journey earlier, I think maybe one shouldn’t dwell on the bad stuff too much. It could have been a whole lot worse…
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Thanks for sharing this, Katherine. I’m really sorry about the redundancies. I know from my own experiences and from my husband’s that this can be miserable and a harsh blow to a person’s confidence. But, you’re right, coming near to death helps us put our lives into perspective. I really appreciate your comment. Best wishes – Josephine
[…] And, on gratitude, here’s Josephine Corcoran’s Seven/Seven thoughts. […]
I really liked your account Josephine. It made me think of those people , the little people subjected to terror, bombs and not knowing, as the usual backdrop to life. But it also brings into perspective the lives our parents and grandparents lived during the wars of their generations. The massive worry, doubt and grief that permeated their lives, knowing horror was taking place, their loved ones were involved, but not knowing the details for days months or years. Modern communications though at times a pain are indeed a blessing, and allow critical communication, and quick communication across the miles. All or love to you and yours, it was great spending some time with you at Cec’s 95th.
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This is a very welcome message to find, John, thank you! I hadn’t thought of the connection with previous generations but you’re right, events like 7/7 do give us some (a little) insight to what they experienced. If only the world was free of violence. Love to you and all the family, – J xx